Farm to table is a food trend I can 100% get behind and one that I’m happy seems to be gaining even more popularity.
Farm to table is a food philosophy that focuses on ingredients. They are the stars of the dishes, which means a lot of the food is not complicated, instead, it does just what it needs to highlight the main ingredient(s). This is perfect for someone with food allergies because farm to table restaurants know exactly what’s in their food and you can be guaranteed they aren’t using any mystery ready-made sauces or the like. Since the kitchen takes pride in every detail of their dishes, they tend to be able to cater to allergies without much hassle.
Allergy Friendly Farm to Table
If you are looking for fresh, simple, beautiful food, I would highly suggest calling up your local farm to table restaurant to see what they have to offer. For now, you can check out my review of three farm to table restaurants we visited in Northern California this past April.
Chez Panisse in Berkeley
I honestly had no idea what Chez Panisse was until Shahla (from My Berkeley Kitchen) pointed it out to me and explained that it was one of the first farm to table restaurants. When I told my mom I saw Chez Panisse she freaked out and said she has always wanted to dine there. We had a free afternoon and I took my chances to see if we could get a reservation. The stars were aligned and we got in! I called ahead to make sure my allergies wouldn’t be a problem and the person on the phone was more than competent.
Her positive impression on the phone carried right over to the actual dining experience. The first dish I was hoping for was made on the same line that uses walnuts, so they suggested a few other options for me. That small attention to detail eased any nerves, so much so, I opted for a glass of prosecco to start the meal off on the right foot (I normally don’t like drinking when dining at a new place).
Everything was simple and perfectly prepared. I started with a simple salad of mixed greens, radish and kohlrabi. The main I chose, prepared in a safe area of the kitchen, was lamb with polenta. And! I even got to have dessert, which is a very rare thing. I finished with David Lebovitz’s molasses cake with orange cream.
I can see why this place is an institution. They are so professional, I felt like I was in good hands the whole time.
Shed in Healdsburg
I saw the Shed cafe on Instagram and really wanted to go because of its focus on local ingredients and fermentation. They also have a wonderful food philosophy of eating in season. The menu had a lot of my allergens on it (nuts and sesame), however, they were able to make some small adjustments and I was in full on food heaven!
I started with a beet and yoghurt salad (first pic in post) followed by a pizza to remember! The pizza had onion blossoms on it, which brought this subtle flowery onion flavour that paired perfectly with the melted comté.
The food was fantastic, the waiters didn’t discuss my allergies as much as I had hoped at the start, but the manager brought out my food and told me about the adjustments that were made to accommodate my allergies. So overall a win!
The Shed also has a fabulous shop full of food products, cookbooks, and the most adorable cookware. Luckily I only travelled with a backpack so I couldn’t buy anything or else I would have seriously gone crazy and broke!
The Chartered Oak in St. Helena
Since we a great first experience with the Shed, we thought we would continue with the farm to table theme. I called ahead and asked about my allergies, they reassured us that it would be no problem and there would definitely be something for me.
When we got to the restaurant they immediately knew that our table had allergies and pointed out some safe options. Even though they seemed great at the start, it got a little overwhelming for me. I like to have one waiter that takes my order and who discusses all the allergies. Throughout the evening we had so many people serving us that I felt my allergies could easily get mismanaged.
For instance, my sister and I wanted to share some dishes so we asked if they would check. When our appetizers came, I thought it would be ok to share since they said what I ordered was safe, but they must not have heard that we wanted to share. Thank goodness we always look at the food carefully to see if there are any traces because we spotted sesame in her dish. I would normally ask a waiter once more before digging in, but we saw the sesame before this was possible. Since they said my dish was safe I didn’t try anyone else’s that evening (which honestly I never do),
The food was very good and they were able to accommodate my allergies by making creative substitutions, always a win when they can make an interesting dish and not just a steamed vegetable. But the service made the experience less enjoyable than it could have been. The waiters had too much of a cool demeanour for me to feel 100% safe. Next time, I would probably ask to talk to one waiter and make sure they check in with me about the dishes and if the kitchen has any questions. The reason is that I always ask about my allergies when my food is brought out, but when it is brought out by a new person every time this gets tricky.
A Quick Wrap-up
There are so many great farm to table restaurants in the Napa Valley that I’m not sure I would head back to The Chartered Oak. I would go back Chez Panisse and Shed without a doubt!
Have you been to a great farm to table restaurant? Share your experience in the comments below!
Kortney is your typical atopic triad who manages asthma, eczema and multiple food allergies. Kortney is a co-creator of the online community Allergy Travels and co-host of The Itch Podcast. She wants to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of life with atopic disease and believes that you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!